CHAI Opens Doors to New Senior Housing Project

Attendees at the Woodland Gardens II opening ceremony cut a ribbon, marking the building’s grand opening. (Courtesy of Rachel Ruben)

CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance, Inc., an agency of The Associated: Jewish Federation of Baltimore, held a grand opening ceremony for Woodland Gardens II, a new senior apartment building in Central Park Heights.

The building is the latest part of the organization’s efforts to provide affordable housing for seniors in Northwest Baltimore.

The event took place on Monday, Oct. 30, and featured speeches from several local politicians and housing industry professionals, including Sen. Chris Van Hollen, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott and representatives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which helped fund the project.

“Woodland Gardens II represents an important part of the major redevelopment occurring in Park Heights,” CHAI CEO Lisa Budlow said. “This development touches lives and makes the community stronger, and it is an honor for CHAI to do our part to realize this vision for Park Heights.”

CHAI has been working to create housing in Northwest Baltimore for 40 years. Around 15 years ago, the organization partnered with Park Heights Renaissance to create housing projects in the area. Woodland Gardens II, along with its sister building Woodland Gardens I, was first identified as a viable site for a housing project in 2017. Woodland Gardens II took six years to complete, while Woodland Gardens I is still in development.

Woodland Gardens II features common areas including a library, a media room, a game room and an arts and crafts room. The building sits within walking distance of several local businesses. Woodland Gardens I will sit on the same campus when it is completed in 2024.

“Woodland Gardens II is our first mixed financed senior project … and it was very complex,” explained Ellen Jarrett, CHAI’s vice president of housing planning & development. “Although we have done projects with multiple buildings, those were all for seniors. Woodland Gardens I will be our first new construction family affordable project, and the two together provide an opportunity for us to co-create opportunities for intergenerational engagement with residents.”

Some of CHAI’s past senior-oriented projects include Renaissance Gardens, which was completed in 2013, and the multibuilding Weinberg Village and Manor campuses.
Woodland Gardens II’s status as a mixed financed project makes it unique from these previous endeavors, as it was funded through both HUD 202 funding and 4% Low Income Housing Tax Credit funding, combining two sources of affordable housing funding with multiple layers of regulatory requirements. Renaissance Gardens was funded solely through HUD 202, which was put on pause for several years after its completion and reinstated in a different format.

“There was a tremendous learning curve for everyone involved,” Jarrett said of the mixed financing process.

She also noted that Sen. Van Hollen was instrumental in CHAI securing HUD 202 funding. Van Hollen supported the organization’s application for this funding in what Jarrett described as a competitive application process. Ultimately, CHAI secured a capital advance of $3.5 million to help with capital costs and a contract to provide rental assistance for 40 of Woodland Gardens II’s 75 units.

“For American families, few things are as important as having a safe place to call home,” Van Hollen said. “CHAI has been a pivotal leader in expanding access to affordable housing in Park Heights, which is why I’ve worked to deliver federal investments for initiatives like this Woodland Gardens development. This new complex will not only provide seniors and families with housing and a community around them, it will also help breathe new life into the Park Heights neighborhood.”

The COVID-19 pandemic was also a major obstacle for the project’s development. In addition to slowing down construction, the pandemic led to an increase in construction costs and supply chain challenges.

Still, Jarrett said that all of the obstacles CHAI faced in developing Woodland Gardens II were worth it now that the building’s residents are starting their lives in their new home.

“[Our hope is] that Woodland Gardens continues to provide affordable housing to the residents of Park Heights for 50 or more years, and that they build a community between the two buildings of families, seniors and children that support each other,” she said.

While the leasing period for Woodland Gardens II has completed, people can still apply to be on the waitlist. Woodland Gardens I will start the sign-up process for leases in December, with move-ins scheduled for as early as March 2024.

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